Even as the clock ticked toward midnight after a long, cold day of hockey, Boston College and Notre Dame refused to call it a night without giving the Fenway Faithful one last bit of drama.
Down 4-3 with the goalie pulled in the game’s final minute, the Fighting Irish made one final assault on BC goalie Brian Billett. That last push initially appeared to be successful, as an Irish shot looked like it might have crossed the goal line with less than a second remaining. Referees ruled on the ice that the clock had hit triple zeroes first, however, and this ruling was confirmed by video review, allowing the Eagles to depart Frozen Fenway with their fifth consecutive victory.
If BC-Notre Dame is to be college hockey’s next great rivalry, it certainly got off to an exhilarating start.
“It’s exciting,” junior BC winger Johnny Gaudreau said. “We knew coming into this week that it was going to be an exciting game. It’s BC vs. Notre Dame, a pretty good rival, and it was just something that a lot of our players will never forget. It’s something special for the teams that get to play these little games out here at Fenway.”
The sluggish play and lack of puck movement present in Saturday’s earlier matchup at Fenway — a 1-1 tie between Merrimack and Providence — were nowhere to be found when the Eagles and Fighting Irish took the ice in the nightcap. The teams combined for seven goals on just 44 shots in the contest, with Notre Dame tying the score twice before Gaudreau scored the eventual game-winner midway through the third period.
They say star players should be at their best when the spotlight is brightest, and the standouts for BC and Notre Dame certainly were. Irish points leader T.J. Tynan turned in a goal and an assist, and Mario Lucia, the team’s leader in goals, added his 10th tally of the season to get the Irish on the board with five minutes to play in the first.
Boston College’s point-scoring trifecta of Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes was especially potent. Gaudreau scored twice, running his streak of consecutive games with a point to 14, while Hayes added two helpers and Arnold scored two goals and assisted on another for a game-high three points.
The three form one of the most feared lines on college hockey by playing off each other’s strengths: the small, speedy Gaudreau is an expert stickhandler with a deadly scoring touch, Arnold (tied for the NCAA lead with 23 assists) is a master facilitator and head coach Jerry York says Hayes — a star since his freshman year in Chestnut Hill — is finally using his 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame to add a physical edge to his game.
A blocked shot by Hayes led directly to Gaudreau’s game-winner, and the junior winger called his linemate’s defensive effort “one of the best plays of the night.”
“A lot of people think that was a great play by me scoring, but that blocked shot was the main reason why we won that game,” Gaudreau said. “He blocked the shot, it went flying down the ice and gave me a nice little breakaway. It was a great play by Kevin. He had a really good game tonight.”
Though the Eagles jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as Notre Dame came out sluggish after a month-long layoff, the “wow factor” of playing in an iconic setting like Fenway Park was not to blame for any lapses on either side. The majority of the BC roster, including Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes, played in the 2012 edition of Frozen Fenway, and the senior-laden Fighting Irish team played outdoors at Chicago’s Soldier Field just last year.
“A lot of us got to play in [Frozen Fenway] my freshman year,” Gaudreau said. “We kind of gave the younger guys a little taste of it and tried to help them out as much as we could. We told them it was going to be an exciting game, it was going to be a cold one, and just embrace it.”
Senior Bryan Rust, who scored Notre Dame’s third goal on an absolute rocket from the right circle, said the Irish knew what to expect heading into the game but were victimized by trying to do too much with the puck on the uneven ice surface.
“I felt like we got into the game quickly,” Rust said. “We knew the ice was going to be bad, and at times early in the game we were trying to make too fancy of plays, and that kind of hurt us a little bit. But as the game went on, we knew the ice was bad, so we started to make a few simpler plays. But on the plays that we got a little too fancy on, we made a few too many mistakes, and that cost us.”
The next meeting between these teams will take place in a more traditional hockey setting, at Conte Forum in the regular-season finale on March 1. If the opening act is any indication of how this new rivalry will play out, that matchup will be appointment television.
Photo via Twitter/@FrozenFenway